All the ways bad sleep is hurting you
Surveys show that 40% of American adults get less than the nightly minimum of seven hours of sleep recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the National Sleep Foundation. The National Institutes for Health estimate that between 50 million and 70 million people do not get enough sleep. These recommendations for minimal sleep are based on a review of many scientific studies evaluating the role of sleep in our bodies and the effects of sleep deprivation on our ability to function at our peak performance level.
I am a neurologist at the University of Florida who has studied the effects of both traumatic brain injury and sleep impairment on the brain. I have seen the effects of sleep impairment and the significant effects it can have.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, American adults currently average 6.9 hours of sleep per night compared with the 1940s, when most American adults were averaging 7.9 hours a night, or one hour more each night. In fact, in 1942, 84% of Americans got the recommended seven to nine hours; in 2013, that number had dropped to 59%. Participants in that same Gallup poll reported on average they felt they needed 7.3 hours of sleep each night but were not getting enough, causing an average nightly sleep debt of 24 minutes. Fitbit in January 2018 announced results of a study it conducted of 6 billion nights of its customers’ sleep and reported that men actually get even less than women, about 6.5 hours.
Why sleep matters
The problems caused by sleep shortage go beyond tiredness. In recent years, studies have shown that adults who were short sleepers, or those who got less than seven hours in 24 hours, were more likely to report 10 chronic health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, and depression, compared to those who got enough sleep, that is, seven or more hours in a 24-hour period.
There are more challenges for children, as they are thought to have an increased sleep need compared to adults. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that children six to 12 years of age should sleep nine to 12 hours a day and teens 13 to 18 should sleep eight to 10 hours daily on a regular basis to promote optimal health.